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Roseburg City Council supports bill to limit liability for urban campgrounds in smaller communities

A small, white box with a roof, two windows and a door,  Similar boxes are in the background, all laid out in rows outdoors.
Rogue Retreat
An urban campground in Medford run by Rogue Retreat. Roseburg also hopes to create its own urban campground.

At a meeting Monday night, the Roseburg City Council expressed its support for a state bill that would create a liability exemption, thereby removing the financial concern from lawsuits over urban campgrounds, potentially from unruly residents.

The goal is to make it easier for rural communities to address the homelessness crisis.

The bill would apply to smaller, rural communities that fall under the Balance of State/Rural Oregon Continuum of Care, meaning they're too small to receive money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development directly so share that funding amongst themselves.

On Monday night, the Roseburg City Council unanimously voted to send a letter of support to the legislature to encourage the passage of the bill.

"We’ve got less funding from state and federal sources," said City Councilor Ellen Porter. "We’ve got a lower tax base in rural communities, as well as typically lower individual incomes in rural areas, and we’ve got fewer human and institutional resources to assist the unhoused."

Roseburg has been searching for its own urban campground site as it struggles with homelessness. A 2019 report from the city's Community Development Department found that the city had insufficient housing services to meet the needs of its homeless population.

"I feel like we’ve been pounding the desk, and this is a intelligent, very direct conversation with people that can make the change that we need to reduce some of the resistance we run into at the state level to try and find solutions," said City Councilor Brian Prawitz.

These campgrounds would still be subject to certain liveability criteria.

The language is currently being considered by both the Oregon House, as a standalone bill, and Senate, as an amendment to a larger bill.

This comes after Oregon Governor Tina Kotek asked the legislature to spend $130 million as part of a homelessness spending plan.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.